102 Minutes That Changed America: "Mesh" reporting comes of age (UPDATED)

102 Minutes That Changed America: "Mesh" reporting comes of age (UPDATED)

Summary: This week, in commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the History Channel is releasing an unusual documentary, entitled "102 Minutes That Changed America". If you are a DIRECTV subscriber and have access to their On Demand service, you can actually download the program to your DVRs now.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility

This week, in commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the History Channel is releasing an unusual documentary, entitled "102 Minutes That Changed America". If you are a DIRECTV subscriber and have access to their On Demand service, you can actually download the program to your DVRs now. If not, you'll want to set your TiVo's or tune in at Thursday, September 11, 9PM EST or Friday September 12, at 1am EST. This is a show you absolutely do not want to miss.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

There have been numerous documentaries and specials about 9/11, but none of them have been as gripping and frightening as this one. Why? Because this show was produced using video sources from real people that were on the scene at the time, shooting as it was happening, and with material that hasn't been seen before, in all its graphic and horrifying detail.

Over the span of 102 minutes, the video clips are shown in sequential fashion as the events actually happened. It is absolutely disturbing and horrifying, in an almost surreal -- or "super real" fashion.  If we didn't all know 9/11 actually occurred, it almost seems like a faux-reality first-person documentary along the lines of "Cloverfield". The editing and first rate source material results in an incredibly disturbing but beautifully preserved historical record, something that everyone should be forced to see in the coming decades, especially for those that will only know of the attacks like people of my generation know of the Hindenburg, Pearl Harbor or the liberation of Auschwitz through old movies, if only to understand the full significance of the events and feel the sadness and the true horror of what happened.

That a program like "102 Minutes" could be produced in this day in age is a testament to the fact that more and more amateurs are able to be used as ad-hoc reporters due to the prevalence of VGA-quality or better video-record mode on cheap digital cameras and increasingly better resolution on cell phone cameras, not to mention that camcorders themselves are now smaller and smaller than ever.

What's amazing is that all this source material for this special used 2001-era technology. God forbid, but if an event like this was to happen again, the amount of documentation we would have now from people in the field would be incredible. This with the combination of 3G wireless HSDPA and WiMax technology that is now  emerging will allow a news network to potentially have THOUSANDS of cameras and data sources, in a technique I would like to call "Mesh Reporting".

Much like how "Mesh Networking" allows large groups of people to share data over short range networks, "Mesh Reporting" (or perhaps "Mash Reporting" or "Mashcasting" in homage to web mashup technology) would allow a swarm of people on the scene of a breaking news event to simultaneously shoot video and photographs  and submit that content over public wireless networks to aggreggation sites where traditional media could assemble the end product for broadcast. Geotagging from built-in GPS receivers in cell phones and automatic time stamping combined with cloud APIs for web-services enabled GIS systems (aka Google Maps/Google Earth) would easily allow a media service to create programming such as "102 Minutes" on the fly.

For "102 Minutes" The History Channel had to go through painstaking editing processes and manual interviews to assemble all the material needed and sort it correctly to the correct sequential time scale and geographical perspective and to transfer it to digital editing systems. By comparison, with the all-digital formats of today's camcorders, cell phones and digital cameras combined with Web 2.0 technology and ubiquitous wireless networks, "Mesh Reporting" would be child's play.

Will amateurs through "Mesh Reporting" or "Mashcasting" change the way major news events are covered and history is documented? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • I agree.. but what about reliability

    Youtube and others have effectively become a great source for all these amateur video's. But how will a reporter verify the reliability of these images ? There are also a lot of advances made in video manipulation software...
    • number of sources

      Major catastrophies like 9/11 would have many many sources and view angles. This would be difficult to falsify in a rapid manner. If the content were added after a few days the validity could be questioned.
    • Reliability

      Whatever makes you think there is any longer reliability in current reporting???
      • I think you

        asked a great question.
        High Plains
  • I'd like to watch it...

    ...but I don't have cable.

    Maybe they'll put it on the web.

    Just like...um...a mesh...?
  • Future video

    Jason has something in "mashcasting". I can foresee software that can stitch and paste various video together, much like Microsoft Photosynth. It'll be able to time synchronize the collected videos into a 3D scene that you'll be able to move through in the time line of the video collection. You'll not only be able to see a miniture 3D scene, but also enter the scene to examine things more closely.

    Can you image watching the 9/11 event as if you were walking those same streets? How about watch a NASCAR race from the hood of any car. Maybe fly in formation with the Thunderbirds at an air show.

    There's a lot of software and infrastructure to be built to get to that point, but I can see it coming.
    • Exactly

      Well, imagine using a Google Earth or Google Maps API, and region selecting an area on a map GUI and putting in a timescale. Then you will see little dots with walking paths that represent video feeds submitted by an amateur photographer that was uploaded to say, YouTube. Or maybe 5 different services. Maybe include stuff from public security cameras or webcams or whatever.

      The resulting "stitching" system should then be able to make a remote services call to YouTube to download the videos and assemble it in time sequential order. The editing program would then allow the human editor to put in transitions or captions or edit peices out.
  • Mesh Reporting of US Police repression from 2 weeks ago

    Good article by Perlow. And as is typical with the race of technology, Mesh reporting has already happened starting with coverage of Police Raids and repressions at the Republican National Convention 2 weeks ago:


    And unlike the extremely unlikely chance of being a victim of terrorism, when the free speech rights of other Americans are repressed such as above, we are all directly effected.
    • See "Still the same"

      This person's comments support my statement in my comments in "Still the same" below.
  • RE: 102 Minutes That Changed America:

    Excellent perspective. In answer to your question. Absolutely. I think it is self-evident. Like literacy, the pony express, general mail, email, radio, TV, telephone, modern talk-radio, chat rooms, etc., any wide-spread enhancement of the freedom to communicate will affect the way major news events are covered and history is documented. On one hand the truth will become more apparent as more eyewitness testimonies are readily available to an omniverous public. On the other hand lies may more readily be perpetuated by agenda-driven publishers to their market share of myopic consumers. As long as freedom of competition exists truth will dominate.

    Only liars demand "fairness."
    • Still the same

      I agree that "...lies may more readily be perpetuated by agenda-driven publishers to their market share of myopic consumers." The press of 200 years ago operated much the same way. One publisher in particular was more responsible for getting the US into a war with Spain in Cuba (Spanish American war)than any other individual or group. Randolph Hearst and his "yellow journalism". History has a way of repeating itself if we don't learn from the past.

      I don't agree that "As long as freedom of competition exists truth will dominate." If the public wants to believe on point of view, the truth only confuses them. Unfortunately, we human beings happen to be subject to a thing called bounded rationality which means that we tend to accept the first seemingly plausible explanation for something and accept it as truth without questioning it and learning all we can about the subject before forming an opinion. Just watch the current election coverage and listen to, or read, people's comments, even in this forum.

      Just my 2 cents.
  • RE: 102 Minutes That Changed America:

    Absolutely brilliant idea. I think a lot of people are starving for something like this. Live video can't lie and people are already getting fed up with "news media" and all it's various incarnations as it is now, right and left.

    Video and all forms of recorded image has had such a profound impact on our daily lives over the past decade, so utilizing it for our own means is only a natural progression. For people it would be more empowering to us in a social sense than to only let major network news tap in, this could be an ultimate check on censorship and the distorting of events everywhere, as well as creating a vivid historical record.

    I wonder if it'd possible to have cameras sync up to a "master clock" of some sort that would set the actual time on the camera to ensure that the timestamp was correct. That would be the ultimate record.

    102 Minutes That Changed America is a key example of the importance of the concept. Considering that they had to go back and get the entire timeline worked out, edited properly, not to mention interviews, clearances, gathering all the various films and then formatting them together the way they have done.

    Imagine if you could just piece them altogether in minutes rather than months. It redefines the entire concept of historical records in an enormously evolved way.
  • RE: 102 Minutes That Changed America:

    I watched this program last night and was deeply affected. I felt all over again the horror and disgust at anyone doing something like this in the name of God, or Allah, in direct contradiction to the teachings found in the Bible, or the Quran.
  • most impact, from the french brothers.

    I think that the one that had the most impact, was the one made by the french brothers.